Sunday, January 31, 2010



By Reginald Johnson
January 31, 2010

There were two good things about President Obama’s State of the Union speech: he blasted the Supreme Court for the terrible decision allowing corporations to give unlimited contributions to political candidates, and he said he would end tax cuts for the rich and the oil companies.

I give him credit for these comments, but not much else. On so many key issues, he failed to deliver. And in some instances, he actually plotted a course which takes this country backward.

On health care, while Obama urged Congress to end their squabbling and pass a reform bill, he wasn’t specific about what he wanted. Why didn’t he stand up and excorciate the health insurance companies for their greed and say he won’t sign bill without a strong public option? Yes, I know centrist Democrats and Republicans wouldn’t like it, but there would be a wave of public support which would put them on the defensive.

While Obama took credit for winding down the war in Iraq, he said nothing about the horrific war in Afghanistan, which continues to cost American lives and drains our treasury of desperately needed resources for domestic programs. This war is going nowhere and is totally unnecessary. More than 800 American soldiers and thousands of civilians have died in this conflict. The war is costing $160 billion a year to prosecute.

I think Obama knows this war is a loser, and that’s why he didn’t dwell on it. Why doesn’t he have the courage to call it off?

Obama emphasized that a big focus of his second year would be jobs, jobs, jobs. He talked about tax breaks for small businesses. That’s OK. But there really has to be a sweeping plan for new employment. U.S. unemployment is at a whopping 10 percent, and most Americans don’t think the recession is over, despite claims by the administration.

While he mentioned steering Americans into green-collar jobs, he wasn’t bold or specific. Obama should have announced a crash program to rebuild our highways, bridges, schools and transportation systems, kind of like a super-WPA. Of course this will cost a lot of money, but if the nation can spend trillions on a bailout for Wall Street, certainly hundreds of billions can be put into a jobs program.

All the cost would be made up and more so, through hundreds of thousands of more people working, buying things and paying taxes. Simply put, it would really jumpstart the economy.

But a major public jobs program is not on the radar screen with this president. Instead, Obama has decided to play Reagan-lite, calling for a spending freeze on all discretionary spending, not including defense and homeland security. In other words, education, health care, transportation, housing and social services are going to take a hit.

Why is he pandering to the right?

Obama says the deficit has to be brought under control. But what about weapons spending? Why is the $700 billion plus defense budget --- complete with submarine, plane and missile programs that are no longer needed --- exempt from the budget ax?

Ominously, the president went on to say that by executive order he is setting up a bi-partisan commission that will take a hard look at the cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Translation: they plan to cut these programs. This despite the fact that the programs have successfully served hundreds of millions of Americans very well since they started. And with a depressed economy, these forms of government assistance are needed now more than ever.

Like I say, it sounds Reagan-lite.

Did we vote for this?